Monday, December 19, 2011

The Trip Home and Bizarre Alaskan Weather

It’s weird how locales seem to change along with the traveling individual and their experiences. You’ve doubtless all heard the expression, “You’ve taken X (earthquakes, rain, clouds, etc) with you” when you travelled to a new place and found that something unforeseen and unexpected to the residents happens soon after your own arrival. These experiences, however, aren’t new to you, and people seem amazed at your jaded placidity.

When I travelled to Oklahoma last year, a spate of earthquakes hit the state. This wasn’t new to me, but it was to everyone else there. The generally apocalyptic weather that this state effortlessly summons seems preternatural and somehow unfair. Like there’s some metaphysical agenda against this pancake land, mocking the attempts of these walking bags of blood and bone to dominate nature by turning their finest architectural achievements into junkyard scraps. It actually helped me theorize the abundant penchant for religiosity in the weather-stricken Bible Belt. Theological abstractions must be conjured in order to persevere, and this particular streak also inserts itself into the ubiquitous football discourse (“Boomer Sooner” actually means “Go God/Jesus/BBQ/ Toby Keith!”).

Anyway. I arrived back in Alaska and it seemed to turn into Oklahoma. It was unseasonably warm, with 80 mph wind gusts that I have literally never seen here. Last week, a friend of a friend told him he saw lightning. Yes. Lightning during an Alaskan snowstorm in December. A truly freak occurrence, even during the summer, let alone dead winter.

I went running in the windy, icy street outside my mother's place yesterday, and felt like I needed Yeti blood just to keep going.

One last note. I seem to have a frustrating knack for meeting incredible, beautiful, intelligent women on flights from one random city I’ll never even be close to and another equally distant from my usual location. This particular knack seems, at once, bittersweet, somewhat cool for its rarity and storybookishness, and also painfully sadistic (lol). I once had a flight from Phoenix to Seattle with someone I connected with on every single level. Mind sparks flew, and we ended up having a two-hour layover after the flight and hung out at the airport. Alas, it ended with email exchanges and all, but we ended up flying two opposite directions and eventually lost touch. This scenario happened again on this most recent flight, and makes me wonder why I can make ephemeral encounters with beautiful, intelligent, professional women of my age in metal tubes five miles above the surface of the earth, but rarely when I’m firmly attached to a small segment of soil I happen to inhabit for long periods of time. Yargh. 

Anyway, it also gives me some reason to be optimistic after feeling particularly nauseous about the whole romantic thing lately.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Lo and behold, I found myself enjoying the latest iteration of what passed as entertainment for a high school and college-aged Derek: Jackass 3D.

The prevailing discourse regarding maturity would have me be ashamed of this indulgence at the age of twenty-eight. It would have me immediately point up my nose at such nonsense and pull out Faulkner in order to get my responsible intellectual vitamins. But something has been yearning in me recently to experience youthful, mindless glory, an unashamed revelry in pain for no reason juxtaposed with the juvenile exploitation of bodily functions.

I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but there’s something symbolically wonderful about Jackass and their stunts. Something boldly anarchic and charged with contemporary frustration. Most would brand me a postmodernist babbler who would also likely deem a piece of contorted metal on stand “art” if I dared to allow Jackass in this category …but I think there are some unrecognized merits in their stunts. Call me crazy.

Although it feels slightly hyper-masculine, in the sense that it’s really just a bunch of skateboarders reenacting the same premise as Fight Club in a more overt and less narratively cohesive sense, I also feel the stunts can be stripped of such gendered interpretations by looking at the motivations behind them. Sure, Jackass 3D does not contain the same rebellious twenty-somethings trying to eliminate boredom, but it does harken back to those initial intentions. Boredom is powerful stuff. It makes one uncomfortably aware of their goals, life intentions, or inherent motivations. And when one doesn’t have a responsible or coherent answer, we’re left with a gripping nausea.

A nausea which makes us want to ride grocery carts over ramps and into nearby pools. A sickness which makes us want to take someone’s fast food bag out of their hand in the drive-thru and spike it on the ground in front of them while wearing a football helmet. The ideological undercurrents informing these kinds of stunts—commercialism/materialism generates absurdity or ubiquitous mendacity—may not be articulated by these guys, but I have a feeling it’s there in essence.

Qualifier: On occasion.

Now…this is not Sartrean existentialism. I’m not saying it has high artistic merits or credibility But it is, on occasion (and when they aren’t over-compensating by attempting to display how manly they are through pain-endurance) symbolically powerful stuff.

Call it the logic, or illogic, of “Jackassishness.” It’s the new way of saying something “just ain’t right, so I’m gonna go hurt myself to pass the time. Cause at least then I’ll feel something.